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The Essential Bay Area Italian Restaurants

by Fernanda DeSouza

posted on October 27, 2017

Photo Courtesy: Beretta

It's no easy feat to nail down the intricacies of Italian cuisine—and there are more than enough places that have failed to capture the wonder that is Italian food (exhibit A: Olive Garden). To break the mold, one most go beyond the restaurant chains that claim to serve Italian food and search for hole-in-the-walls or newly opened places in the neighborhood you've been hesitant to try. It may even be that the best rigatoni or carbonara has been under your nose this entire time. Mangia bene, San Francisco, and give these deliziosi restaurants a try!

Photo Courtesy: SPQR

It may have a Michelin star and a name from ancient Rome, but SPQR looks and feels like a convivial Italian restaurant you want as your local haunt. The menu changes with the seasons, but don’t overlook the vegetable antipasti or inventive desserts.

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Smoked fettucini with sea urchin, Stuffed duck leg, Caramel budino, Milk braised bufala

Photo Courtesy: sf_octavia

At Octavia, the light and airy dining room hums as patrons sip wines chosen from a 14-page list and dig into fresh, vegetable heavy dishes. The Mediterranean menu changes regularly, but the squid ink noodles with fennel are always a popular choice.

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Romanesco cauliflower, toasted wheat linguini, roasted beet salad, braised beef “osso bucco”, eton mess

Photo Courtesy: berettasf

Either you need a solid base for a fun-filled night or want to continue the party with boozy brunch the next morning, Beretta's got you covered. Innovative Mediterranean fare, strong drinks, and a like-minded crowd equal a guaranteed good time.

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Bruschetta, squid ink with calamari risotto, gnocchi with porcini, margherita

Photo Courtesy: kimthomas721

For 26 years, this 2 Michelin-starred darling has been providing a deluxe Italian dining experience to the people of San Francisco. From the impeccable service to their uncanny ability to stay culinarily relevant, this special place is here to stay.

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Choose from the customizable prix fixe menu or the seasonal tasting menu.

Photo Courtesy: slugpi

A two-story labyrinth of a restaurant, Zero Zero is the place to go with a big group of friends for seasonal pizza, family-style farm-to-table sides, and creative, irreverent cocktails. Come for a celebration with absolutely everyone you know.

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Margherita pizza, The Fillmore, The Castro, soft serve

Photo Courtesy: salumeriasf

Rustic wooden decor at this sunny spot sends a casual-chic vibe, but the salumi is serious business. Nearly everything on the menu is worth ordering, so bring friends and a healthy appetite. Pro-tip: the artisanal shop stays open after brunch hours.

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Salumi sandwich, fried chicken and egg sandwich, chicory salad

Photo Courtesy: pizzeriadelfina

An offshoot of SF classic Delfina, this solid pizza place serves Neapolitan pies, antipasti, and even a short Italian wine list. The menu changes a lot, but you can always count on the panna pizza with added sausage, known as "the magic pie.

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Carbonara pizza (if available), panna pizza, prosciutto pizza

Photo Courtesy: jaykooler

Close your eyes, take a bite of rigatoni alla carbonara and you’d swear you’re in Rome. But you’re in Locanda’s sleek, airy dining room in San Francisco, hopefully at a table crammed with fried olives, fish cooked “acqua pazza” and a cocktail or two.

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Tonnarelli cacio e pepe, Jewish-style artichoke, bucatini all’amatriciana, lamb chops scottadito, meyer lemon crostata

Photo Courtesy: flourandwatersf

Flour + Water are the main ingredients in pasta. Simple enough, yet only a few master the art. This casually rustic Northern Italian eatery is one of them. Fresh pastas and great pizza are the reason why lines reliably start long before they open.

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Pastas and secondi change often but there's always a seasonal pasta tasting available, Pizza Margherita, Chocolate budino

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